HNS Costume Pageant: Party Like It’s 1599

…or in my case, like it’s 1813 🙂


I must make a confession to you this week: I would have been a miserable failure amongst the ton. I’m practically the definition of bluestocking, for one thing. I also have brown hair and freckles (skillfully covered by good powder in my profile pic). I’m descended from a long line of laborers, tradesmen, and those who work for a living.

And I have very little fashion sense.

I make a good effort in the classroom, because if I look foolish or frumpy my teenaged students will focus on my clothing instead of the lesson. I’m careful not to look ragged when I go out in public, too—mostly because I live in the same area as my students, but it’s also good practice for when I’m a huge, famous author 🙂

These last months, though, I’ve been focusing on Regency fashion. The Historical Novel Society is having their annual conference this coming weekend (which I’m attending), and one of their events is a costume pageant (which I absolutely had to participate in). But how does one put together a 200-year-old outfit in a tiny little town?

A lot of people dig up an old pattern, and put needle and thread to fabric. But my sewing skills are limited to reattaching buttons, so I hit the internet looking for costume shops. I found Matti’s Millinery and Costumes, a store run by a pair of ladies who do costume work for theater groups and reenactors. The have medieval and renaissance wear, Victorian and Edwardian pieces, and a big old section of Regency gear.

After some careful consideration, I settled on a beautiful copper-colored satin evening gown, with an embroidered net overdress (pictured in it’s entirety above, bodice detail below). It’s got the empire waist typical of the Regency, the long flowing skirt (no panniers or bustle to mar the smooth line—or make moving difficult). It’s not the white or pastel that a young miss would wear (because, let’s face it, at my age in that time period, I’d be firmly on the shelf).


Then, just as now, a lady’s ensemble wasn’t complete without a handbag, and the wonderful ladies at Matti’s made one for me out of material left over from the gown. It’s large enough to hold all my 21st Century things (camera, business cards, lip balm, medication, etc), but totally period appropriate.


I even hunted down a pair of gloves that weren’t made of stretchy nylon, or intended for wear by girls going to prom. I didn’t want white gloves, either—while rather ubiquitous, everything about my dress is shades of copper and tan, and I think white would have looked out of place. But I found this lovely pair of beige evening gloves from the early 1960s on e-bay. They arrived in rather appalling condition, but cleaned up nicely.


I’m not wearing period appropriate shoes (my black flats from Payless will have to do this time), nor am I wearing silk stockings (not in Florida in late June). So the only thing left is to figure out what to do with my hair. And here I’m stuck. My hair is too long (and frizzy in the humidity) to leave down, but it’s too short for an elaborate updo (see my profile picture). And I’ll have to be able to do it myself (eek!).